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Porno

SXSW 2019 Review


Independent; 98 minutes

Director: Keola Racela


Written by on March 24, 2019 




Filmmakers and cinephiles undoubtedly remain haunted by certain urban legends in film. When my mother told me about Snuff, an alleged South American snuff film that screened in the 70s in New York, it haunted me to my core for years. A few weeks ago I caught it at Quad Cinema’s “Rated X” series and found it to be a hilariously unwatchable mess, but that’s a story for another review.

Porno has a terrific concept and effective execution for much of its first half: a group of religious high school students working at their majestic local downtown twin movie theater stumble across a secret basement screening room where they find a satanic porno that might very well be a lost Alejandro Jodorowsky film or an upcoming sequel to The Love Witch.

Set in 1992 when the only options at this mini-multiple are Encino Man and A League of Their Own, the trouble starts when the young employees are given permission by Mr. Pike to have a “movie club” night where burned-out projectionist Jeff (Robbie Tann)–or Heavy Metal Jeff as he’s called by the prudes–has to show anything they want to see. After an older gentlemen goes crazy and crashes through part of the lobby they discover the secret screening room and stash of haunted 35mm prints.

The group–including the headstrong assistance manager Chasity (Jillian Mueller), peeping tom Abe (Evan Daves), and a responsible, Christ-loving jock Ricky (Glenn Scott)–find themselves at a moral cross roads as to watch the film or not. Abe takes the initiative, locking himself in the projection booth much to Jeff’s annoyance to finish the screening of his new favorite movie. This unleashes the goddess within, turning the film from a pervy psychological thriller to a supernatural slacker flick. The film itself, however, presents a whole host of unexplored opportunities as it slides into pure uninhibited madness where the rules don’t matter.

Directed by Keola Racela from a script by Matt Black and Laurence Vannicelli, Porno quickly runs off the rails, diving into the supernatural as the satanic porn goddess Lilith (Katelyn Pearce) comes to life and goes to town on the men, including the cinema’s proprietor Mr. Pike (Bill Phillips). As far as B-grade horror flicks go Porno has a terrific if not over the top set-up with references to 80s and 90s teen movies. Abe is the resident pervert, and perhaps Mr. Pike sees something of himself in Abe as we later discover. The supernatural element with low-rent visual effects derails an interesting enough concept where the rules don’t matter. Finding a creepy, mysterious porn film is weird by itself, and while it need not be grounded in realism like 8mm or Hardcore, Porno doesn’t have to throw away the rule book to be fun and scary.

Porno premiered at SXSW.


C







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